Back to School, in Valparaíso

May 19, 2012 • Reporting Trips • Views: 605

by Anisha Suterwala & Emily Ullmann:

The Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María looks like a castle by the sea. Yale is gorgeous, but it doesn’t exactly have the view of this university, which is also one of the best in Chile. We climbed up dozens of stairs (or hundreds, depending on who in our group you ask), to a view that looked out across the entire bay of Valparaíso. When we got to the top, we realized that we were apparently important.

The view as we walked up to the university. (Bruner/TYG)

At the university’s campus. (Bruner/TYG)

We were greeted by Katie, the International Affairs liaison at the university, who escorted us, much to our surprise, to the house of the rector of the university, Jose Rodriguez.  The President’s mansion on Hillhouse may be impressive, but it’s no seaside villa.  The house is no longer used as a residence, because in the 1970s, a wave of protests similar to ones sweeping Chile now spurred students to run their own Occupy movement—at the rector’s house.

Arriving at the house, we met the rector, a nanotechnology professor, and a physics professor. An intimidating bunch, they were shockingly warm and funny. The rector directed us to a dining room where eleven plates of crab, shrimp, mussels, and ceviche awaited us. Assuming this was our lunch, we annihilated it. The rest of the group, having more manners and social grace, tried to avoid using their forks as shovels. We were pleased, though slightly embarrassed to realize that we still had two equally delicious courses to go.

The professors spoke to us about entrepreneurship in Chile and their efforts to connect their enterprising students with investors. The obstacle most aspiring entrepreneurs face is that the Chilean upper classes tend to invest their money in stocks and banks, which are sure to provide returns, instead of the more risky business of start-ups. Over roasted salmon, rice, and sautéed vegetables, we discussed everything from student protests to the rector’s college glory days.

After dessert and coffee or tea we posed for pictures with our wonderful hosts. As they presented us with gifts and said their goodbyes, we were still in shock. In fact, we are still not certain they realize we are just your average college students. But then again, who are we to pass up a three course gourmet meal and farewell gifts at a villa?

Our group with our Santamaria hosts in front of their main building. (Bruner/TYG)

As if that wasn’t perfect enough, we walked off our meal by frolicking in the (frigid) Pacific Ocean and soaking up the sun as we lay on the sand.

We’re not sure what we’ll do when we we’re not Yale students anymore and people no longer consider us worth wining and dining.

An afternoon at the beach, with the Santamaria campus on the hillside. (Bruner/TYG)

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